Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Gender Equality

When Hubby and I had kids we decided that we wanted our children to be exposed to and try out for sports and at least one fine art.  Hubby played lacrosse and football in high school and I ran track and cross country. So having them try out a sport was no big deal. As for the fine arts, my Hubby is a fabulous artist and we have some of his art work displayed in the house.  As for me, I can play a tune or two on the piano. We wanted our kids to have the same opportunities.

When my daughter wanted to play soccer when she was 18 months old, I had no qualms about signing her up for a class.  She had watched her brother play and would often walk onto the field to try to join him. I spent many classes stepping over the barrier and capturing my toddler before she got in the middle.  She loved her soccer classes and she was pretty good at it.  Later I signed her up for swimming classes. Now she is enrolled in dance classes and she loves it.

My son has been involved in soccer, t-ball, and swimming.  Of the three, swimming is his favorite.  Right now we don't have any classes for him.  The soccer class that we tried to sign up for fell through so now he is without an activity. Which is fine, because he is in school 4 half days a week and that's quite a bit for now. However, now that Buggy is dance class, he desperately wants to be in a class, too.

So here is the issue, he wants to take dance classes, too.  It shouldn't be an issue, right? Boys and girls should be given the same opportunity, right?  His only exposure to dance classes right now are his sister's tap and ballet class.  So he wants to do tap and ballet. Yes, there is a class for him and yes, boys do take classes. Except there is only one other boy in a class and the class doesn't fit into our schedule.  I hesitate and I hate that I hesitate to put him in a class.

Last week there was a father who took his daughter to Buggy's class. He also had a son watching from the sidelines.  Because Boogie desperately wanted to join the action, he was given permission to try the class to make sure that this is what he wanted to do.  The other boy (maybe a year older) was also given permission to join the class. Now, while Boogie joined the class, I did not make any disparaging remarks to him. I let him try the class and encouraged him to use his listening ears. If he could not follow directions, he would have to leave.  He listened.

The other parent on the other hand made the following remarks to his son:
"Don't hold the umbrella like a girl (one of the props). Hold it like a man. Like a golf club or baseball bat."
 "You're enjoying this class a little too much."
 "Don't do it like a girl"
"I'm worried that you're having too much fun"

I was a little frustrated because I didn't want Boogie to overhear it and have negative thoughts about dance class. If he wants to take part in dance class, then I want him to be in dance class.  I want it to be his choice and not to be influenced by others. Fortunately, he seems to be pretty oblivious to other's thoughts about things like that. Phew.

While I'll encourage him to try class if that's what he wants to do, I think tap and ballet may be too tame for him. This kid has a lot of energy. Maybe a hip hop class instead?


  1. Tap and Ballet are good for helping him improve his feet and leg muscles, which will help with his tippytoe walking. It will also be good to teach him some self-control and patience (not that he has any less than any other kid his age- just saying).

    It will also teach him that his parents will support him no matter what he wants to do/be and that it's ok to be different.

    It will also give you a chance to talk with him about how to handle it when you hear people say things that aren't nice. He might seem oblivious but he also might be learning from that dad and you won't know it until he brings it up later. Kindness and gender equality start now! : )

    I learned from my dev. psych. class that research has shown that girls are allowed a much wider spectrum of gender behavior than boys. And that even if we believe in gender equality, we are still modeling gender stereotypes (that's frustratingly true for me!). So even if you skip the dance class, talk about why with him and let him know that he can be in an all-girls class if he wants bc dance is for everyone.

    I know that your hesitancy is bc you don't want anyone like that dad hurting William's feelings if he is in dance, not that you think it would be harmful to William's manliness or whatever. But, maybe this one time, it's ok for Buggy to have something of her own? And William can be happy for her on the sidelines?

  2. Ah, you know me so well. I so don't want him to be teased or have someone say something negative to him. I decided to let him try a combo class tonight (jazz/tap/ballet) and a hip hop class on Saturday and let him choose between the two. Saturdays aren't great days for us, but if this is what he wants to do, we'll make it happen. Maybe when you come over in November we can talk more about this and your dev. psych class. I'd like to hear more. Oh and you are totally right, he definitely hears everything and I don't always know until later.

  3. As a HUGE Theatre Arts freak (as you well know), I think it's fantastic that both your munchkins want to move! And as a sister, I truly wish my brother had more understanding for the things I love. Big round of applause for W., whatever he decides to do. (And really big BOO to that dad. How horrifying.)